Conservation Genetics

, 8:1453 | Cite as

Genetic population structure of the sagebrush Brewer’s sparrow, Spizella breweri breweri, in a fragmented landscape at the northern range periphery

  • Emily K. Croteau
  • Stephen C. LougheedEmail author
  • Pamela G. Krannitz
  • Nancy A. Mahony
  • Brett L. Walker
  • Peter T. Boag
Research Article


Assessing the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation is a crucial step in conservation planning for species in endangered habitats. We tested for the impact of natural habitat fragmentation on gene flow and genetic diversity in seven northern breeding locations of the sagebrush Brewer’s sparrow, Spizella breweri breweri. Genetic analyses using five highly variable DNA microsatellite loci suggested that individuals sampled within a sagebrush landscape fragmented by natural elements such as coniferous forest, comprise a single genetic population and that gene flow among them is unimpeded. We posit that juvenile dispersal links seemingly isolated breeding locales of this species, and discuss implications of our findings for conservation of migratory songbirds in the northern portion of their ranges in light of potential shifts in distribution due to climate change.


Breeding philopatry Habitat fragmentation Gene flow DNA microsatellites Genetic diversity Sagebrush Okanagan Climate change 



Funding was provided to PK by the Endangered Species Recovery Fund, Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Environment Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, and CarreerEdge; to NM by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and University of British Columbia University Graduate Fellowships; to BW by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Association of Field Ornithologists, the University of Montana, and the Five Valleys Audubon Society, and to SCL and PTB by NSERC Discovery grants. We thank Ryan Gill, Harry van Oort, Shelagh Parken and Steve Ogle for help in collecting the feathers. We also gratefully acknowledge Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science (LSUMNS) for the use of tissue samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily K. Croteau
    • 1
  • Stephen C. Lougheed
    • 2
    Email author
  • Pamela G. Krannitz
    • 3
  • Nancy A. Mahony
    • 3
  • Brett L. Walker
    • 4
  • Peter T. Boag
    • 2
  1. 1.Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Department of ZoologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  3. 3.Canadian Wildlife ServiceDeltaCanada
  4. 4.Wildlife Biology Program, College of Forestry and ConservationUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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